The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ (6/’07). This is a piece which consists of a number of ‘imagined scenes’ for film designed to demonstrate to a director that I can cover a vast range of music. It also functions as an independent concert piece and an idea for a film. The concept of ‘...Walter Mitty’ is a modern remake of the Danny Kaye Classic. Walter is a daydreamer. He can’t hold a job... he often drifts off into his dreams and the movie brings these dreams and daydreams to life.
In ‘Walter Dreams’ and ‘Rustlings in the Old House’ - Walter was sent off by the clerk in his cousins realty business to show a house on the edge of town. The clerk was playing a trick on Walter, who she sees as a sorry character, and sent him to a house rumored to be haunted and no one has been able to sell. The clients never show. He falls asleep and in dream he has wild imaginative adventures in the haunted mansion.
In ‘Alien Shores’ - Walter is dreaming he’s on an alien planet. He walking along the shoreline.. The waves have different rhythms and colors. Bright orbs form above the waves and an ‘alien cetacean’ emerges and tries to speak to Walter. Finally he realizes and tries to say hello.... then he awakes. He is on a subway seat and people are giving him strange looks.
In ‘Warrior King’ - Walter imagines himself a warrior king of ancient mongolia... he emerges from his smoke-filled tent, dons an over-sized helmet and lead his troops to battle.

Listen to this music (Rustlings, Walter Dreams, Warrior King) on Home Page Player and Chris Kaufman's Sonic Emporium.


Tales of the Ocean City’ ('08 ongoing) - Audio Book Fantasy Series - thrilling story, dramatic narration and continuous cinematographic music all by Christopher Kaufman. Here are tracks withdrawn in the form of movements from a ‘Suite’. ‘...Ocean City’ tells the tale of young Harl’ut as he comes of age in a fantasy world. His best friend who shares in his adventures is Vispushin - a telepathic flying horse. Here you can hear the unique and fascinating sound-world of this imaginative universe. You will hear music which evokes images of flight, ocean, adventure, horror, mystery, battle, romance and delight. On the ‘Audio Page’ you can hear examples of the music with narration - but the composer invites visitors to listen on the music player and let the imagination run free. This music represents a style of writing perfect for fantasy adventure films (animated, hybrid, live) as well as a work which can be arranged for live performance.

Listen at Chris Kaufman's Sonic Emporium.

If of interest here are images from the story which match the music examples:
Around the Fire - tales told around the fireside, Harl’ut remembers battle. Sounds of the Dark - Harl-ut listens to the sounds of the dark as he ventures into the depth of an extinct volcano. Down the Tunnel - accompanies his terrified imaginings as he climbs in the dark down the throat of the great volcano. Exotic World - he encounters a ‘spiritual phantom’ in the heart of the volcano once worshipped as a god by his people. Monster Rises - A monster of the dark rises. Dark Battle - Harl’ut battles. Cave of Light - His initiation ritual complete, Harl’ut meets Maia. Ocean Flight - here Harl’ut flies above the ocean on Vispushin’s back and dives into the sea from a great height. Flowing Surges - Harl’ut flies over the plains and sees Princess Bryn’lyn. Sun Dance - Bryn’lyn delights in the sun and sky. Horror in the Sky - Bryn’lyn is attacked by the Vorm.           

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MYTHAGOS - cinematographic ballet 2006. Mythagos is the forest where all myths run free. This work is a continuation of my ‘Young Ulysses’ series of orchestral works where I allow my imagination to roam in mythological territory free from a specific pre-conceived story. The opening introduces a dryad-like character reaching for the sun In the ensueing episodes Ulysses finds is lost in the Mythagos forest and is fleeing the many denizens and shades. In part two Ulysses comes upon the dryad-woman and they dance together and she transports him to he shore os his island home.

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MUSIC FROM EARTH - (8/’07) for Alto Saxophone Soloist, Tape of Western/Eastern Orchestra, Electronic and Natural Sounds.
MUSIC FROM EARTH represents a new evolution in my work. Human politics, nature, eastern and western music and philosophy, classical form and improvisation, live music and electronic synthesis are combined. This music is inspired by the work of environmental leaders. It is a celebration of the beauty of our planet and is a warning which emanates from the Earth’s core - a Song of the Earth. I used geography and the elements to delineate classic form.
Opening Rift - the work begins at the ‘mid-atlantic rift’. Earth Rhythm - The music progresses with war-like rhythms through the ocean. Whale-song is part of the texture, mixed with symphonic textures and powerful thematic melodies in the saxophone. Air - Expressive solos interweave sounds of tree crickets, polyphonic owls, woodpecker, harp, piccolo, marimba and other sounds. Interlude. Ritual Snake Dance - You’ll hear saxophone, eastern percussion, piano, mutedtrumpet, bass, electronic brass and rattle-snake sounds. UrthStorm - the final movement features lightning strokes, complex driving rhythms, live ‘cuica’ and the central message of MUSIC FROM EARTH.

SCORE - Introduction

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ISLAND ('Eeslahnd')

'ISLAND' - for orchestra and narrator (fall 2001). The title, ISLAND, is pronounced ‘eeslahnd’, which is how Icelanders say the name of their country. It was commissioned by Daniel Rieppel director of the SW Minnesota Orchestra and premiered in Marshall, MN in November of 2001. ISLAND was composed for narrator and orchestra and in that regard I worked with Icelandic poet Bill Holm who composed an original poem for the work and narrated the premier performances. The other poems for the work were by Icelandic poets from ‘Sybil the Seeress’ through Poets who lived in the previous century.
ISLAND celebrates and monumentalizes Iceland - her land, history and mythology, and tells a clear story the listener can follow.
ISLAND begins a ‘landscape painting in sound’. One can hear mountains, glacial ridges, volcanic undercurrent, fjords and the ocean which surrounds this land so inspiring to my musical imagination. The first ‘movement’ climaxes as the volcano erupts. Afterwards the journey continues to the shore and ocean. Here there are shorebirds, a romantic ‘dance’ with a mermaid and the adventure into the sea begins.
At this point two new aspects join the thread. First, there is a ‘figurative touch’ where the ancient mariners took to the sea to reach ‘Vinland’ (as is referenced at this point in Bill Holm’s poem). This is to help connect the listeners to the story: i.e. the ‘adventurers’ are the listeners who experience the tale through the music. Also, the movement into ocean symbolizes the journey into the subconscious and the element of mythology becomes prominent.

Listen to excerpts and movements of this work on PROJECT PAGE

Movements Poems and Poets:

The Dawn of Ages - creation myth from the Voluspa.... Sybyl’s Prophesy...
Land Such a Land - Ode to Iceland - Hannes Peturson.
...the Glacier Trembled... Mount Skaldbriedur - Jonas Hallgrimsson. Volcanic climax.
The Sun... Sigurour Brieofjoro. Peace after climax.
Interlude.... She Came Through the Waves L.E.R. and from Dance on the Red Sands - Johannes ur Kotlum.
Interlude Ending
Embarkation - Bill Holm. Eric and Liefur embark on the sea.
Aegir... from Valhalla - J.C. Jones. The sea god, disturbed by the adventurers, awakes.
Tempest... from Frithiof Banished, Frithiof’s Saga - Tegnor. This movement is not finished here.
Tempest Ending. Calm.
The Serpent Iormundandr... Thor’s Fishing - Oehlenschlager and Iormungandr (The Midgard Serpent: Valhalla) J.C. Jones.
The New Earth... Baldor Dead - Mathew Arnold. From the mythology ‘The Ragnarok’ where the new earth rises from the sea after cataclysm... also symbolic of the explorers reaching Vinland.

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THE PHOENIX - Chamber Ballet (fall 2003). Arriving at the material with which this music deals (i.e. the events of 9/11) was not a simple process. It involved the suggestion of friends, personal experiences, and the opportunity to compose an orchestral piece for a particular event. I composed THE PHOENIX originally for full orchestra August 14th through September 20th (2002). The Chamber Ballet version was composed a year later. The material is presented through the universality of myth and symbol. After the opening ‘movement’ (‘Clouds of Memory’), THE PHOENIX focuses on ‘transformation’ (‘The Phoenix Awakes’) and return to restful shadows.
In the first movement, ‘Clouds of Memory’, there is lamentation, outrage, and mystery. Gongs and related effects create an atmosphere in which expressive string and woodwind solos create a thick texture of voices. Passionate outbursts intercede. There is a theme created from the mathematical relationship between the two towers (6 feet of separation between the towers translates into two melodies separated by 6 half steps). Eleven ‘power-strokes’ featuring tubular bells and gong occur at the end of the first movement and symbolize the time element involved. There are nine strokes... the Phoenix begins to awake... and two more strokes follow in echo.
The Phoenix Awakes’.
There are many aspects of the Phoenix myth. In this music my imagination focused on the part of the myth where the Phoenix takes the parent ‘body’ to the ‘Temple in the Sun’ - HELIOPOLIS - to bury it there. The powerful transforming quality of the sun - the source of all life - is what is presented here, in the ensemble -- while the SOLO FLUTE takes the role of the myth.
Whereas the orchestral version of THE PHOENIX ends with a huge climax where the City of New York wakes up and dances and there are ‘Ivesian revelries’, fanfares and an exuberant finale, this chamber ballet version returns to restful imaginative shadows... music from the first movement is echoed, transformed into a peaceful setting. The music here reclaims the dark as a place of restfulness and the 'spring of imagination'.

SCORE - Chamber Ballet Vers. - 1st 4 Pages

SCORE - Orchestra Vers. - 1st 8 Pages

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SPIRIT - for small orchestra. 1995/2006. A friend and pianist named Wendy Maraniss - a widely respected teacher and performer in the Ithaca, NY area - died in a tragic car accident when driving on a Sunday to teach make-up lessons. I found that she had written a tome of small piano pieces for children. I offered to organize them and I also composed ‘response’ pieces which I embedded in the new book we made. SPIRIT is an orchestration of these completely original pieces which have bits and pieces of her melodies imbedded in them. Her name is stated in the music as well. The movements are Spirit, Cool Gust, Beautiful Dream (with her name at end), Something Good, Ostinato, Spirit2, and Contrary Dance.

Listen to excerpts from movements of SPIRIT on PROJECT PAGE.

. Christopher Kaufman at the United Nations


"PICKLES..." - music theater/opera/film (spring/summer 2005). With writer/Director Dominick Rossetti. This sweeping and dramatic story takes place during turn of the century New York. Children work in labor factories and suffer at the hands of a street gang led by the evil 'Razor'. Lilly and Mary were found long ago by the Junkman at the seashore. They are mermaids and long to return to the sea, especially young Mary. Lilly meets Pickles and falls in love. Pickles and his brother 'Wheezy' have their adventures as well. 'Wheezy' incurs the wrath of Razor when he defends Lilly from his bullying and is pursued throughout the story. Essentially begun as a workshop, "Pickles..." was performed twice, in review form, at the United Nations (for the benefit events for the victims of the Tsunami and hurricane Katrina) and then turned into a film. Visit Dominick's site and you can see footage from the work featuring the talents of especially John Pinto (as 'Wheezy') and JessAnne Smith (as Lilly), but there are many young talents documented. You may also see the trailer for the 'Lightning Bug', which is an animated film project.

This project began with a phone call and resulted with Dom and I becoming great friends. He was best man at my Wedding. Dom's an amazing man and has had an extraordinary career - visit his site to see that as well.


Listen to 'Lost Child' and other selections from 'Pickles and the Junkman's Daughter' and 'Lightning Bug' on my Concertmusic Player.  TBA   

SCORE PAGES FROM - Angel Fish - Count On Me - Lost Child - I Can Fly - One Day, One Night - 'Pickles and the Junkman's Daughter' - 'Razor Dance' - 'Razor's Tango' - 'Street Urchins'

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The Gardens of Lemuria - for full orchestra. 2006. Beginning ‘Lugubrious’ - dark with powerful climaxes - this work a political allegory and the first of the ‘Young Ulysses series’ written before Mythagos. Here Ulysses joins Poseidon on an adventure under the sea to defend the ancient underwater city ‘Lemuria’ from gorgons and mindless tyrants rising from the rift in the earth’s core at the behest of the shadow king. At the end Ulysses joins his love on shore. I used the letters of my wife’s name, Maryclare, in this music (harps, strings) and at the end you can hear Poseidon return slowly to the depths (brass, percussion). This work has also been included in libraries for the purpose of licensing in films.

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Mercury's Shadow - violin duo - composed in the summer of 2000. It was written as I was moving to New York City from Ithaca, New York where I had lived for about fourteen years. As a result, the music has a very dynamic quality - the work embraces sonata form and ends with a ‘country dance’ dedicated to the beautiful countryside of Ithaca and my experiences there.
This music asks the question, what is the shadow of shadow? ... Bright powerful sunlight? Openness and clarity? Classical structure? When combined with consistent powerful emotion you have the interplay of such polar opposites as inform much of this music.
Simple explanation of over-all form:
The piece begins with two introductions. The first is a dialogue of powerful expressive gestural melodies, the second is more rhythmic and brings the music forward. A fanfare-like rhythm heralds the introduction of the main theme (bottom of page 2). This leads to a phrase climax and then the exposition repeats with a more contrapuntal realization of the theme (top of 5). This is followed by a full climax of the ‘A’ section (page 6). The ‘character theme’ area (page 7) has some of the most expressive music of Mercury’s Shadow. Music from the introduction returns and ‘dialogues’ with the intensely passionate lyrical music. After this the ‘finale’ ensues which is the ‘country dance’ mentioned earlier. In this there is the option of improvisation - the dance is repeated and the violinists switch parts, thereby offering the other musician the option of improvising. It has been performed without improvisation as well (with the offered written out music) and in this performance they did not choose to switch at the repeat. The piece ends with a short energetic coda.
For much of the piece the violins act together, making one instrument. There is a constant dialogue of musical and expressive elements. The performance should be very high energy all the way through, especially in the quieter moments. Mercury’s Shadow is of approximately 8’ 40” duration.

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Madrigal in Spring - for piano trio (fall '93) was written for the Ithaca Piano Trio - featuring violinist Lisa Hegyi, pianist Wendy Maraniss and is especially dedicated to the inspiring friendship of cellist Sera Jane Smolen. The title is inspired by the poetry of Pablo Neruda, particularly his Madrigal in Winter and Walking Around.
This work reflects the process of rediscovery. Passionate energy is combined with clear formal design and direct gesture. The opening phrase of the work depicts the ‘opening of the heart’ - which can have many connotations - and the resultant outpouring of positive emotion, as represented in the violin/cello duet at the end of which the music reaches a climactic peak and then pauses. At this point the music ‘reinitiates’ -- as do we when we awake each morning and recreate in our minds each aspect of our life experience; our dreams, expectations, hopes and memories. From this point forward the music speaks for itself and can be described as cresting and receding waves of energy.
Madrigal in Spring is concerned with the strong, sometimes painful emotions which inspire rejuvenation and redefinition. In the true sense, the term ‘Romantic’ may be applied to this music in that the ‘emotional intelligence’ is paramount.

SCORE - Page One

Performance from CHIRON 11/'04 - Caroline Chin (vln.), Yoo-Joo Na (vc.), Myself (pno.)

Part ONE ................................................Part TWO

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Brass Quintet - (fall '91) This music begins with Drama and Humor in direct juxtaposition... true to the spirit of the American music master to whom this work is dedicated... Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller... it is a piece in which I celebrate joining with the world-at-large after the growth and development stages undergone in the University environment... after the initial gestures, the low brass takes on material from my very ‘serious’ doctoral thesis while the trumpets make fun...
The first movement of this work has within it the elements of the whole. After the opening fanfares, there is a soft chorale with expressive solos.... this becomes the basis of the dramatic second movement - where the variations come first and the chorale upon which the movement is based comes last... the last two measures of the first movement become the basis for the third movement in which instrumental colors are explored like painting sound with watercolors...
The fourth/last movement is a ‘theme and variations’ of a tune of Waller with which everyone should be familiar and is introduced near the end of movement one. The Finale is built of a theme which I later took to form the basis of the wild dance which ends my work for full orchestral titled THE PHOENIX: which is dedicated to the City of New York and focuses on transformation and the celebration of creativity... In this theme you can hear the music say the name of New York City. At the end the musicians quote words of the master.

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Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

That is the best definition of an artist that I’ve come across --
And such was Wendy Maraniss - one of those singing birds... singing the music of composers Young and Old. Living and Gone.

A dedicated teacher of young people, Wendy was driving on a Sunday morning - on a cold winters day in November - to teach make up lessons... and on a patch of black ice just outside Ithaca, NY she met a tragic end.

She was a friend and one of the finest pianists I’ve ever known... too shy to dance at parties, yet not too shy to perform Ligeti for Ligeti - and to his satisfaction! For her memorial concert in 1997 I performed the premier of this piece - IN MEMORIAM: WENDY MARANISS... This work uses the letters of her name in the music and celebrates aspects of her personality... perhaps those that we shared.

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..At the Gates...
for Five Tenor and Four Bass Trombones
composed 11/2002
...At the Gates...
... combines celebration music from my recent work for Full Orchestra:
-- The PHOENIX --
which is dedicated to the city of New York,
with being a study for future operatic work:
--The Lady Faust -- .
Together they they make -- ‘A Jazz band playing at the gates of Hell...’
First - the psychological state of the listener...
You are at the edge of the pit...
You see boiling magma...
There are clarion calls and demonic beasts...
The Gates of Hell.
Then, at the edge... a Jazzband begins to play...
The demons roil in discomfort...
The Jazzband continues and wins the day...
*World Premier Performed by Haim Avitsur and the CHIRON Trombone Choir, Christopher Kaufman, conducting. - CHIRON Performing Arts 11/9/04 - THE FLEA Theater, Tribeca, NY

SCORE - First Three Pages

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Rieppelmusic - (‘ripplemusic’)- for piano and chamber orchestra (1990). This piece was written for my friend Daniel Rieppel - pianist and professor of music University of Minnesota, Marshall, MN.
Rieppelmusic was composed while a fellow at The MacDowell Arts Colony. The title bears the dedication to Daniel Rieppel, whose friendship and unfailing dedication to the forward progress of the musical arts have served as inspiration for this music. “Ripples’ may also be found in musical terms in, for example, the opening theme. This work is essentially a concertino in rondo form. The scherzo-like opening material returns in varied form after contrasting sections. The returning scherzetti also include spontaneous capricious turns of events. The formal divisions are: Scherzetto I, Lugubria, Scherzetto II, Rhytmos, Scherzetto III, CLimactic Waves, Dialogue/Climactic Statement/Cadenza and Final Quiescence.

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MOMENTA for solo piano (spring 2004). Momenta is the plural of momentum. The title is a play on words. The inspiration for this piece is the music of Franz Schubert and his ‘Momens Musicale’, especially #1 of opus 94 (C Major). As a student I played this music. Although a gentle piece meant to played more delicately, I played it like a miniature opera with strong emotion. My teacher, understanding that I was a composer, let me experience the powerful emotions Schubert's music evoked. It is this appreciation of Schubert’s music which MOMENTA expresses and pays homage to. You can hear the tune imbedded in the piece in various guise, especially at the end.
The intention here is to ‘process’ the gestures of the classical era through my own creativity in order to create something new which takes inspiration from the past and yet looks forward -- to express what it feels like to be alive in today’s world... Also - one may speak of the ‘vibrations’ which arise from reaching back through time...giving rise to the ‘romantic’ gestures which characterize especially the earlier areas of this music.
A simple formal analyses of MOMENTA:
Introductory gestures (with thematic variation), Fuga (follows cadenza for right hand), an area I call ‘the way it is... after chasing Schubert’... (you can hear the left hand chase the right up to the top of the piano)... an area where the A and B areas are combined into a ‘harmonic lyricism’ which precedes a recapitulation and final expression of the theme.
MOMENTA is dedicated to friend and new music champion Daniel Rieppel.

SCORE - Page One

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RUNNINGMUSIC: Homage New Orleans

Runningmusic (fall '06) was written at the request of artistic friend and new music champion Haim Avitsur. A couple of years ago he helped me with the world premier of my work ...at the Gates... - for nine trombones, which was the first piece performed at the initial concert event of CHIRON Performing Arts in New York City. Haim also performed at the same event my BRASS QUINTET as a member of Bombastiq Brass. I was happy that he called me when he formed a new trio with Dave Taylor and Nitzan Haroz and Runningmusic is the result.
Runningmusic refers to the fact that I like to compose music when running in the park. This time that process became a piece basically in and of itself. As I ran I heard themes from past and present works run freely through my mind. In Runningmusic these themes are interspersed with musical episodes inspired by the act of running and glissando gestures which are fanfare-like, mysterious or humorous.
The work begins with such running music and introductory glissando gestures. The themes you will then hear (separated by running music or glissando episodes are (in order):
Count on Me: brothers on the rooftop. This is from a musical theater piece titled ‘Pickles and the Junkman’s Daughter’. Set in turn of the century New York, this work features many wild and colorful characters, powerful drama and fantasy. The theme here stated is when the two brothers Pickles and Wheezy - after surviving a street rumble and running all night - end up on a rooftop at dawn and sing of their love of each other. The writer/lyricist and director for this project was Dominick Rossetti.
• ...main theme from WAKEN - for viola and orchestra. • ...theme from ISLAND (pron. Eeslahnd) for Orchestra (based on Icelandic mythology). • ... then transitional music and into the jazzmusic theme from ...At the Gates... for nine trombones. • ... ‘Razor’s Tango’ - the song sung by the evil gang leader from ‘Pickles and the Junkman’s Daughter’... And then some things happened which affected the rest of the piece... Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans which affected me deeply as I began my life as a musician and composer when attending the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. So - after the Tango you will hear a muted expression which begins with a technique which I have personalized where letters are turned directly into music. So the music here is built of the letters N-E-W-O-R-L-E-A-N-S. The the second part of the Homage to that city has a different character... where two familiar tunes are played together in such a way as to express the humor and passion of New Orleans.
After this part of the piece completes itself - to both tie things together and to honor my friend Dominick Rossetti who survived a heart attack at exactly the time I was writing this part of the piece - I reprise the ‘Brother’s Theme’ Count on Me. The work finishes with a variation of the finale theme from BRASS QUINTET which I call the ‘New York theme’ and is also featured in my orchestral work THE PHOENIX:dedicated to the city of New York.

SCORE - First Three Pages

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OCEAN - for Violin and Piano (10/2010)

I’ve been writing music recently which addresses the concerns of environmentalism. I believe composers should be concerning themselves with issues whenever possible, and the result is to have a piece which is relevant to audiences. The piece I composed before OCEAN is titled Hudson Valley Music - in it I have musicians performing against a backdrop of hundreds of natural sounds... sounds which I’ve gathered and composed with. There is also a visual component to Hudson Valley Music - for more on HVM visit this project page link: Hudson Valley Music. HVM tells a story and delivers a powerful message - at the beginning I composed with ocean sounds and whale-song.

In OCEAN I took the whale-song and turned it into thematic content. OCEAN begins with the depiction of a seascape - somewhat turbulent, very passionate - with waves crashing on the shore. In the latter section, ‘Oil in the Water’ the music expresses outrage at what we are doing to our oceans. This music deals with the conditions and issues of our time in a direct and timely way. The expressive ending sounds an appeal to the audience as if the musicians are channeling the message of the great intelligent creatures of our magnificent oceans.

LISTEN: on Concert Music Player. ABOVE - Track #62